A training program that is not comprehensive, effective and / or efficient must be changed! When you consider how events have impacted our operations in recent years, we as the fire service have taken on EMS, Hazardous Materials, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Terrorism just to name a few. The need for training has always been prevalent but does this topic get the needed attention to detail? In talking with a lot of departments from small rural volunteer groups to large municipal departments this area seems to be the one that takes a back burner to most every other task in the fire service. Within this decade there were 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives published by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. These initiatives were focused towards the comprehensive improvement and enhancement of safety throughout the fire service. It's amazing to find just how many fire service personnel have not heard of these initiatives, National Firefighter Near-Miss nor have they participated in a Safety Stand down or a Safety Week after all this time. A question raised by one department training officer was “do these initiatives pertain to training?” The answer is YES. Below are the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives published by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. I have placed asterisks with the ones that are focused towards or on training.
- Define and advocate the need for a cultural change within the fire service relating to safety; incorporating leadership, management, supervision, accountability and personal responsibility.****
- Enhance the personal and organizational accountability for health and safety throughout the fire service. ****
- Focus greater attention on the integration of risk management with incident management at all levels, including strategic, tactical, and planning responsibilities. ****
- All firefighters must be empowered to stop unsafe practices. ****
- Develop and implement national standards for training, qualifications, and certification (including regular recertification) that are equally applicable to all firefighters based on the duties they are expected to perform. ****
- Develop and implement national medical and physical fitness standards that are equally applicable to all firefighters, based on the duties they are expected to perform. ****
- Create a national research agenda and data collection system that relates to the initiatives. ****
- Utilize available technology wherever it can produce higher levels of health and safety. ****
- Thoroughly investigate all firefighter fatalities, injuries, and near misses. ****
- Grant programs should support the implementation of safe practices and/or mandate safe practices as an eligibility requirement. ****
- National standards for emergency response policies and procedures should be developed and championed. ****
- National protocols for response to violent incidents should be developed and championed. ****
- Firefighters and their families must have access to counseling and psychological support.
- Public education must receive more resources and be championed as a critical fire and life safety program. ****
- Advocacy must be strengthened for the enforcement of codes and the installation of home fire sprinklers. ****
- Safety must be a primary consideration in the design of apparatus and equipment. ****
What changes have occurred over the last five years in your department? Has the department changed from a predominately volunteer to paid, added career personnel? Have your training programs changed or been updated? Has your district risks changed? All of these issues should force us to take a look at the established program, if there is one present. In our increasingly litigious society, standards are changing more rapidly than some fire departments think they can keep up with. This is an unacceptable attitude! Does someone in the command staff or department have the time to pick up one of the trade journals and look at what is happening to other organizations and how they are adapting? Ever heard of the internet, Face Book, Tweeter, professional organizations (i.e. International Society of Fire Service Instructors, International Association of Fire chiefs, International Association of Fire Fighters, etc.)? Is the old statement “we have done it this way for 20 years and it works… so why do we need to change” still the main words out of veteran firefighters mouths? If so, your department needs to be focused on overhauling the training program.